Aug. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid is opposing plans by a Muslim organization to build an Islamic center near the World Trade Center site, after President Barack Obama said the group has the right to proceed.
Reid, who faces voters this fall in his home state of Nevada, is the highest-ranking Democrat to speak out since Obama addressed the issue on Aug. 13. Reid’s spokesman, Jim Manley, said the fourth-term Democrat thinks it would be best for the mosque to be built elsewhere.
“The First Amendment protects freedom of religion,” Manley said. “Senator Reid respects that, but thinks that the mosque should be built someplace else.”
At a White House iftar dinner, which breaks the daily fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Obama said on Aug. 13 that an “unshakeable” commitment to religious freedom gives a group called the Cordoba Initiative a right to build an Islamic center near the target of the Sept. 11 attacks.
His remarks drew criticism from some Republican lawmakers. Separately, the Anti-Defamation League has been critical of the mosque’s location.
On Aug. 14, Obama said he wasn’t endorsing the project and wouldn’t comment “on the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque there,” though the Muslim group has that right.
Reid is in a high-profile race for re-election against Republican Sharron Angle. Nationally, 68 percent of Americans said they opposed building the mosque two blocks from the Trade Center site in an Aug. 6-10 poll conducted for CNN.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn have supported the project. The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.
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